Walla Walla-based Banner Bank has expanded its operations here significantly since completing a merger with former Spokane-based AmericanWest Bank, says Kirk Quillin, Banner Bank’s east region senior vice president.
Since the merger with AmericanWest was completed last October, Banner has moved most of its accounting and finance operations to Spokane, Quillin says.
Banner Bank also has a merchant-services group based in Spokane, as well as family lending, builder-finance, and commercial-lending teams.
“Banner Bank has a really significant presence here—more than just 16 branches,” says Quillin, the bank’s top executive here.
In all, Banner Bank has about 320 employees in the Spokane area and 2,100 employees bankwide.
Among them, two AmericanWest executives, several of its team leaders, and many other AmericanWest employees have joined Banner Bank. Five former AmericanWest board members are on the 16-member board of directors for Banner Corp., which is Banner Bank’s Walla Walla-based parent company.
“We have a wide range of folks—and a lot of them—here in Spokane,” Quillin says, adding that they’re scattered at several facilities here.
Banner Bank’s customer care center and its Internet banking group are located in a call-center facility near Spokane International Airport.
The bank’s east region administration, deposit operations, and information technology personnel are based at the former AmericanWest headquarters building at 41 W. Riverside.
The commercial lending team is based at 801 W. Riverside, where Banner Bank has had a longtime presence downtown.
Quillin, who was raised in Sandpoint, has been with Banner Bank since 2002.
He says many of the company’s commercial bankers grew up in the communities they serve.
“We have a lot of folks who know this market. They didn’t get transferred here from somewhere else,” Quillin says, adding. “There’s a lot of local decision making.”
Banner Bank completed its merger-related, core-system conversion during the fiscal quarter ended March 31.
“We had two different platforms that were the backbones of the electronic parts of the banks,” he says. “It was an extensive project that took many months to bring the two organizations together.”
A technical group analyzed the core systems of Banner Bank and AmericanWest and other available systems to determine the best platform for the bank to have moving forward.
AmericanWest clients were converted in early February.
“It went as well as we could have hoped for,” Quillin says. “From a customer standpoint, it went very smoothly as a result of a lot of preplanning. Our deposit operations and IT areas were instrumental in getting planning and testing and retesting done, so when we hit the conversion date, we were ready.”
The bank also is deploying its “super community bank” model, as a result of the merger. Under that model, Banner Bank aims to combine the spirit of a community bank with the capabilities of a regional bank, Quillin says.
For example, Banner Bank has its own international banking department and its own bank card department.
“A lot of smaller banks would outsource that,” Quillin asserts. “We’re large enough to provide the full breadth and array of products our clients would need.”
Banner had been growing strongly prior to the merger with AmericanWest, Quillin says.
“The rough number of (clients) we were doing business with between 2010 and midyear 2015 almost doubled,” he says. “That growth was all organic.”
Post-merger organic growth will be difficult to measure until the dust settles, he says.
“There’s so much noise in the data, it will take us a bit of time,” Quillin says, “Even in the first-quarter earnings, there was so much in acquisition-related charges and one-time expenses.”
The bank’s acquisition-related expenses totaled $6.8 million during the quarter, which was the first full quarter following the completed merger. The expenses cost about 13 cents per share, with income settling at 52 cents per diluted share, compared with 61 cents per share in the year-earlier quarter.
Banner Bank’s total net income during the latest quarter, however, was $17.8 million, an increase of 47 percent compared with $12.1 million in the year-earlier quarter.
Banner Bank’s assets as of March 31 totaled $9.7 billion, an increase of 87 percent compared with the pre-merger, year-earlier date. Loans totaled $7.2 billion, an increase of 76 percent compared with a year earlier, while deposits totaled $8.2 billion, up 86 percent.
Banner Bank has 190 branches in Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, and Utah, including 16-Spokane area branches, and one branch each in Cheney, Rockford, and Hayden.
Quillin boasts that Banner Bank now is the second largest bank based in Washington state, and the largest Washington bank based east of the Cascades.
“As we get bigger, we have to keep eye on small details, because that’s what matters in the everyday life of clients,” he says.
For example, Banner Bank offers its customers free access at any ATM. “If the client is charged at another bank, the charge gets reversed at Banner,” he says.
The bank reviewed the no-fee ATM policy last year. “We decided we weren’t going to change things,” he says. “It may affect the bottom line, but we’ve heard over and over again it’s important to clients.”
Banner Bank also is a consistent statewide leader in providing small businesses with access to U.S. Small Business Administration-backed loans, Quillin says.
In fiscal year 2015, Banner Bank processed 165 SBA loans totaling $24.6 million in the Seattle district, which includes almost all of Washington state and the 10 northern Idaho counties.
This year and last, SBA named Banner Bank as the top lender in the regional bank category in the Seattle district, based on SBA loan volume in the most recently ended fiscal year. In 2014 and 2013, Banner Bank also was named top SBA lender in the district in the community bank category.
“Our commitment to SBA lending is one demonstration of what Banner Bank is about,” Quillin says.
With Banner Bank’s footprint in five states, including a presence in nine of the 20 largest metropolitan markets in the West, Quillin asserts, “There’s a lot of diversification and growth opportunities. That diversification allows us to spread risk around and provide more stability for the bank in the long term.”
Banner Bank is now 126 years old and still headquartered in Walla Walla, he says, adding, “We’re different from our big-bank competitors that might not understand Eastern Washington. We still have roots of Eastern Washington embedded in this organization.”
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